Experience The Holiness of the Oldest City : Varanasi
The city of Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the country that have settlements dating back to the 11th century. It has been considered as one of the most auspicious spots for Hindus over the years. The place is majorly famous for hosting the holy waters of River Ganga where the very day is witness to the massive auspicious processions which if one is ever lucky to be part of will cherish their entire lifetime. The city has a rich display of Indian culture, philosophy, traditions and spirituality.
The auspicious aarti in Varanasi is carried out at the holy river Ganga. Many priests are involved in carrying out this aarti. Lit lamps and songs personifying the river Ganga rea played in the background. The numerous lamps that are burned during the aarti are considered to carry the power of the gods. Many saints dressed in saffron and white robes can be seen conducting the ceremony. Each saint takes their specific spot near the Ghat and offers flowers to the waters of River Ganga. The oil lamps are waved in synced motion. After the aarti is done the devotees are allowed to take the heat of the flames from their hands and touch their foreheads. This symbolizes purification of the mind, soul and blessings from Goddess Ganga. Conch shells are also blown during the ceremony. Yak tail fans and peacock feather fans are also signalled during the ceremony. The priests end the ceremony by emptying a bowl of water into the river. After which, the devotees let go of small oil lamps with flowers on a leaf to drift on the river.
Every day thousands of visitors including locals and people from different parts come to witness the aarti ceremony. Hence, you should reach the ghat by 5 pm in order to avoid being pushed in the back. If you want to witness the whole ritual from a better spot then you can opt for a boat ride. But make sure to book in advance and not hunt for tickets at that very minute. Apart from that, a lot of shops and house owners rent their balconies to tourists for viewing the aarti comfortably. If you wish to witness a Maha Aarti, then you should plan to visit Varanasi at the end of each year near Kartik Purnima.
Visit an Akhara
Have you ever been to an akhara? Well if you haven’t then don’t worry. Varanasi is not only known for its auspicious ghats. It is also quite famous for its end numbers of akhara and pehelwans training there. What is an Akhara? An Akhara is a traditional and Indianised version of gymnastics and wrestling. A display of uniqueness, akhara are considered as an essential part of the culture of Varanasi. The Tulsi akhara is one of the oldest and popular akhara of Varanasi. It is believed that this akhara was established in the sixteenth century by the famous writer and poet Shri Goswami Tulsidas who wrote the iconic Ramayana. People can be often heard saying that the Tulsi Akhara is where he used to also train and exercise himself. At any akhara in the Northern and Western region of India, men of all ages practice a traditional form of wrestling known as kushti or pehlwani. This practice has been dated back to centuries when the Mughal and Persian wrestling cultures when these dynasties were ruling the country. This has been stated in Indian books such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata where it was known as Malla yuddha which was practised by Hanuman and Bhim. While inside the Akhara you will be able to witness men working out by lifting two-foot-long, cylindrical indigenous clubs as well as dumbbells made of wood and stone, hang upside down from the bars, or stretch on horizontal benches. They can be seen walking with heavy wooden rings around their necks, or while carrying their partner on their shoulders, pushing the limits of weight-training techniques.
Weaving Village Tour
The Sarai Mohana panchayat is a popular village located in the Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh state of India. It has been famously known for being the weavers’ village of Varanasi. The members of the entire town are known to be involved in the process of silk weaving. If you have ever been fortunate enough to raid your own mother’s cupboards then I am sure you may have noticed some banarsi sarees. Not just your mother, any lover of sarees would or would not be aware that the sarees that one gets by adding various retail outlets around the world, the banarsi sarees that you will be able to spot, the majority are a hand product of the Sarai Mohana. The Banarasi sarees made by these waivers are among the finest saris to be made in the entire country. They are popularly known for their gold and silver brocade, fine silk and opulent embroidery. These saris can be seen worn by Indian women on the occasions of festivals, at marriages or on the occasion of their own wedding. while touring the village of Sarai Mohana you will get great insights into the process that goes behind in the craftsmanship of the weavers. The weavers put a great amount of hard work and their sweat in making each piece unique and wonderful for people to take home. These weavers came under limelight when the Taj Group asked the Sarai Mohana village to make saris for its employees and guests.
The Holy voyages are also working hard to promote the Sarai Mohana village in Varanasi so that they are known worldwide and people come to them to buy their saris directly so that they could get correct cost for their product. This will result in improving their livelihood and concentration more on fine products that can compete with the current world trends and save the old culture of viewing silk.
Dine at Tree of Life
The famous Tree of Life Resort and Spa in Varanasi is located in the Cantonment area which is considered one of the most popular localities. It is a five-star property that has been built on one of the most excellent spots that are 12 kilometres away from the city. People staying here will be greeted with one of the most incredible and biggest attractions around the cities must-see. The Tree of Life Resort and Spa offers excellent service and great facilities to make your stay unforgettable. The property offers free Wi-Fi facilities in all rooms, twenty-four-hour room service, twenty-four-hour security, daily housekeeping, portable wi-fi rental and many more facilities.
There is an option to choose out of eighteen rooms that offer the perfect environment to enjoy. The property’s host of recreational offerings ensures you have plenty to do during the course of your stay. A wide green garden with a swimming pool is perfect for you to relax and enjoy the arena. The resort also has a sun terrace and a spa centre. If you are not planning to stay at this facility you can choose to have a meal at the restaurant inside the Tree of Life.
Sarnath is a popular pilgrim spot located near the city of Varanasi. It is famous for being the first spot where the great Lord Buddha preached for the first time after gaining enlightenment. During the ancient years, Sarnath was an important spot where holy men lived. After achieving enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Lord Buddha travelled to Sarnath to get back to his fellow monks in Sarnath. At his first-ever sermon, Buddha preached with five of his disciples Mahanama, Koudanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa and Asvajita his knowledge and what led him to the path of enlightenment. Lord Buddha spent the next rainy season in Sarnath where the number of people grew to sixty monks. This place is known as the Chaukhandi Stupa. It was built by brick-like an octagonal tower during the 4th to 6th century in the Gupta period.
After Buddha, many Buddhist monks continued to live in Sarnath. Great conquerors and rulers that were great followers of Lord Buddha such as King Ashoka built a lot of stupas and structures that revolve around Buddhism. It is known that he built a pillar which holds the emblem of the country. By the end of 3 AD, Sarnath became a hub for art, literature and knowledge. By the end of the 12th century, Turkish invaders raided the place. They took away the building materials and damaged many monuments. Sarnath is also known to be the birthplace of many Jain monks.
Dhamekh Stupa is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first conversation of Dharma. Towering at the height of 43.6 m, it has been constructed out of brick. It was founded by the great ruler king Ashoka in the 249 BCE. After facing some hampering of its structure, it was again built during the 5th century. It is also called the Dharma Chakra Stupa.
Dharmarajika Stupa is located near the Dhamekh Stupa. It is considered that this place has the remains of the bones of Lord Buddha. It was built by King Ashoka but was destroyed in 1794. It was built to house small bone fragments of Lord Buddha.
The famous Archaeological Museum in Sarnath houses Buddhist arts, images of Hindu Gods and etc. It consists of the five galleries and two verandahs. It is strictly prohibited to have photography inside the museum to keep everything sacred.
Ashoka Pillar is one of the greatest things to witness in Sarnath. The great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka had constructed various pillars after his name all over India. Each of the Ashoka Pillars has an Ashoka Chakra on the top which was broken by the Turks. During mining and digging at the Sarnath, broken pieces of the Ashoka Pillars and the Ashoka Chakra were founded in 1904. The Lion Capital is still kept safely at the Sarnath Archaeological Museum.
Located near to the Mulagandhakuti Vihara Buddhist temple, the holy Bodhi tree is another great sight to witness. It is considered as one of the holiest places for followers of Buddhism. It is said that right under this tree is where Lord Buddha had attained his enlightenment.
An 80 feet tall Buddha Statue is located at the Thai Buddha Vihara. It is considered as the tallest standing statue of Buddha. The statue was built originally out of stone for a period of 14 years.
The famous Blue lassi in Varanasi is a small cafe that has been known to share the creamiest and delicious lassis for a grand period of ninety years. It has been the go-to shop for families and friends residing in Varanasi or people on a holiday. The place has been lit with happy pictures of people drinking delicious lassi. The Indian favourite is made out of fresh yoghurt that is whipped by a person sitting on the porch. However, the blue lassi is not your regular lassi. It comes in many flavours for you to choose and enjoy. It includes peach, mango, banana, pomegranate and more that are topped with some delicious toppings. People generally love chocolate, coffee and banana.
Visit the ghats
There are around a hundred ghats in the city of Varanasi. One of the most famous and historic ghats of the city include the Dashashwamegha, Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghat.
- The Dasashwamedh Ghat is the main ghat of Varanasi. This ghat is said to be actually made by Lord Brahma after he sacrificed ten horses. This ritual was conducted to welcome Lord Shiva. Every evening Ganga aarti is conducted at this place.
- The Manikarnika Ghat came into recognition when Sati sacrificed her body to fire after her father humiliated her husband, Lord Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva took the burning body of his beloved Sati around the world. Parts of Sati’s body fell around different places. Wherever her parts fell a temple was constructed from scratch. Manikarnika is the place where her earring fell. Cremation ceremonies are also conducted here.
- The Harishchandra ghat is named after the king Harishchandra who was tested by god. This ghat is preferred mostly by the pundits and Brahmins of Tulsi and Assi ghat to opt to be cremated. People from far off places visit here to cremate their family members since it is a popular belief that a person getting cremated here will attain moksha or salvation.
The holiest river Ganga allows people to take a bath in its waters. A bath is considered as one of the holiest practices to experience here. It is also said that all the sins that you have committed in your life will be washed away by taking a dunk into the water. If you are unwilling to take a dip then another apt experience to witness is the boat ride. A boat ride at the early dawn is perfect to endear the sunrise.
Street food of Varanasi
Local food of Varanasi is one of the most delicious food to try when here. Keep a constant lookout for food carts selling delicious street food such as Blue Lassi and Deena Chat Bhandar. A great experience here to dine at the Vatika Cafe in Varanasi. One of the greatest things to enjoy at the cafe is the Vatika cafe that offers you the exciting views of the river Ganga. Another great spot to have food is at the Monalisa cafe. The cafe serves some delicious Iranian food to eat. Many people from Europe and in different parts of the world have established cafes by themselves. They are known to serve authentic food of their native country. Some of the best things to try here are lavang-latika, rabadi, bhang and Kesar doodh.